More Thoughts on User Groups …

Browsing via Google Reader and my Live Desktop I noticed one of Daniel’s latest posts on How You Start A User Group. As one of the co-founder’s of NxtGenUG I thought I’d put my slant on this one from a UK perspective.  Chris William’s 21 thoughts on starting a User Group are interesting, valid and I’d say cover a good deal of what is required. 

I do disagree with a few of his points particularly No 10 about avoiding certain months of the year.  NxtGenUG have a meeting EVERY month, come rain, shine, whatever.  In this December we’ve had nearly 100 people register for meetings and of the 2 we’ve had so far we’ve had about a 90% turnout rate.  In July 2007 we had one of the biggest month’s ever for attendances at NxtGenUG meetings, ditto August, the so called ‘quiet’ months.  The reason?  People are hungry for information, not everybody goes on holiday the whole of July/August, people work up until 24th December quite often, why not have a meeting in December?

On Chris’s point No 6 I would quibble too.  Whilst DPE at Microsoft are a great help and a fantastic support to the community, there is a difference between being a support and being a crutch.  I wouldn’t get necessarily get a DPE guy in to do a first meeting.  To me when starting out with NxtGenUG, it was a point of pride for me that we wanted to prove that we could organise, fund and build a group without direct help from Microsoft whilst effectively promoting their technology.  This to mind my strengthens our position as a User Group as it makes a statement about who is really driving it.  It strengthens Microsoft’s position too, whereby they can point to us and say, "these guys are doing these great things, promoting our stuff, with no direct support from us, we must be doing something right!".

Funding is always a hot subject in the User Group leader arena.  Chris skirts a bit around the issue a bit in No 8 and talks about sponsorship.  It comes down a bit to what you want to achieve with the group  you are starting.  With us at NxtGenUG it has always been a passion and a drive to put on the best possible meetings, without the need to worry about finance.  To that end NxtGenUG is primarily a subscriptions based User Group.  Our promise to our members is to provide top content in our meetings, food of course, swag of course but above all else VALUE for MONEY! 

Because we generally achieve that we don’t get the situation in No 15 on Chris’s list.  We hardly ever have people complain.  We do have comments occasionally and we act upon them, but because we actively promote feedback, read it, act on it (as Chris states) be it positive or negative and we make it easy to gather online.  As a result,  we nearly always get only constructive or positive feedback on our meetings.

Other User Groups do things differently and have just as valid but different models.  London .NET, Scottish Developers, DotNetDevNet, VBUG all run different types of groups and get support different ways.

Daniel challenged us to add to the list …

22. Have Fun.  Make meetings enjoyable.

23. Give the speakers you invite a GOOD introduction, not a wishy-washy "Here’s what-sit-face?"

24. At a meeting if you’re an organiser/helper, mingle with the attendees, chat, have a laugh.

25. Have fun, smile, enjoy it, don’t take it too seriously …

26 through to 100. Have Fun …

Nice spot Daniel,

Cheers

Dave Mc

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About davemcmahon81
Software Developer & Architect, User Group Leader, Speaker, Writer, Blogger, Occasional Guitarist, Man-made Global Warming Sceptic, Climate Change Believer, General Optimist but most of all proud Husband and Dad ...

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